Traffic was moving slow along Main Street during a dreary, damp morning last week in Teutopolis thanks to an unusual wide load parked by St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
The huge cargo plane drawing stares and producing plenty of snapshots from smartphones was a stripped-down Boeing KC-135 aircraft headed to Dayton, Ohio, for future use as an emergency training facility. Its long wings and four jet engines were gone as well as landing gear, tail and nose sections, but it was still an awesome sight.
The aircraft moving crew picked Teutopolis as an overnight layover due to the restrictive roadway traveling times for such long trucking loads – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Illinois. The roadway by St. Francis Church offered solid sanctuary for the aircraft on a long flatbed trailer rig.
Some local military veterans stopped by to either photograph the blast from the past or just take a trip down memory lane as they looked over the aircraft. A pair of children were excited to get their photographs taken by different parts of the plane, which included markings from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, the latter including a colorful emblem of a Minuteman tied to aerial missions.
The KC-135s first came into military service in 1956 for refueling jet aircraft in-flight, including the massive B-52 bombers of Strategic Air Command, according to information from a Boeing website. The planes were airborne gas stations that pumped jet fuel through a telescoping fueling boom to warplanes of all types and sizes.
The KC-135s were also fitted for cargo hauling, airborne command post roles and medical transfer missions. There were hundreds of these Boeing-built planes flying during the Cold War. Their work did help keep the military fueled and supplied during that contentious era.
During the years, many planes flew with the KC-135s during refueling operations. The plane that stopped in Teutopolis was being escorted by several escort vehicles with flashing lights to warn approaching traffic of what was coming down the pike.
Their journey started in Arizona near Tucson. It has been a much slower trek for the old plane that once flew hundreds of miles per hour. Now it is going at a slow, yet steady pace with the route checked for any bottlenecks or other complications by a scout car.
As one of the escort crews prepared to hit the road, a downpour started. They didn’t mind because they had hot pizza to eat in their vehicle before heading east. Their “guard dog,” a short white dog with floppy ears, was busy eating its breakfast from a container in a cupholder.
The haulers of this piece of aviation history still had a long trip ahead of them. And they would be producing more doubletakes, raised eyebrows and photographs along the way.